Media company

Belo

(BLC)

reported lower fourth-quarter earnings, hurt in part by lower political advertising revenue.

The Dallas-based operator of

The Dallas Morning News

said it earned $42.3 million, or 36 cents a share, compared with $45.9 million, or 40 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. The recent quarter's results included $1.8 million gain, or 1 cent a share, from the sale of a radio station.

Excluding items, the company earned 35 cents a share, which was a penny short of analysts' estimates. Belo also said that if it had expensed stock options, pro forma earnings would have been 34 cents a share, compared with 38 cents a share a year ago.

Total operating revenue was $387.8 million, compared with $394.1 million a year ago.

Revenue in the company's television group fell 7.8% in the quarter due to a lack of significant political advertising spending. Political revenue totaled $4.8 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $27.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2002.

Meanwhile, newspaper group total revenue was up 3.4%.

Looking ahead, the company said it sees higher newsprint costs in 2004, which should be up about 12% in the first quarter year over year. Total newsprint expenses are seen up 14% to 16% in the quarter.

In the newspaper group, the company sees revenue in the first quarter up in the mid-single digits, while television group spot revenue is expected to be up in the mid-to-high single digits.